Strengthening the Decision Making Process With Your Leaders

written on September 23, 2008 by Michele Ridella

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Can it be done? Of course it can, but it takes time and some patience to do so.  As business owners evaluate their leadership teams, one of the most critical competencies for success is decision making. In a study conducted by the Conference Board, critical thinking and problem solving rank #1 as the skill expected to increase in importance over the next five years (Workforce Readiness and the New Essential Skills (2008). Society for Human Resource Management, p. 5)

What can you do to enhance the problem solving skills of your team? The first step is to accurately identify how effective they are in making decisions, and determine potential deficiencies.  Once you know where the gaps or problems are, you can develop a plan to improve. Collect information, gather data and analyze it.  If data does not exist, how do you know where to start?  The simple answer is: you don't. Building and installing systems to collect data is critical to the life of your business. Consider the success of DaVita, a company that operates more than 600 dialysis centers in the United States. One of the company's guiding principles is "No brag, just facts" (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2006, p. 36). This organization thrives on information and begins meetings with data reviews on the effectiveness of their operations.

What can you do to strengthen the decision making skills of your team? Here are some recommendations to get you started:


  • 1.) Brainstorm and conduct group meetings to put any and all thoughts up on the wall. This is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Hear what others have to say, reserving judgment on the applicability. The first step is to get the ideas rolling.


  • 2.) Do more than give your people a voice, give them the responsibility to gather data and share their knowledge with others. Allow for experimentation and treat your organization as a prototype, testing new methods and techniques to address the problem at hand.


  • 3.) Create a "safe harbor" where your people can openly talk about what went wrong, or what might potentially go wrong, without fear of retribution. An environment of trust is critical to foster open communications. Squelch the internal politics that may hinder constructive feedback and advice.


  • 4.) Give people the opportunity to test and pilot programs, allowing for trial and error. Remember, even the most experienced leaders have failures and with failure comes learning. The trick is to learn from mistakes, not repeat them!


  • 5.) And last, avoid the "quick fix". If it worked at GE, will it be a guaranteed success for your organization? Not necessarily, unless you are GE. Explore, experiment and draw on the creative talents of your team.


The above steps are not a "quick fix", they are recommendations to get you and your team started to become better and stronger decision makers. Remember to focus on the facts. Sometimes the cold hard truth hurts, but it is the most effective approach to identifying the problems and potential solutions that are impacting your business today.